SAVING HIM, SAVING ME: PAGAN MOTHERHOOD ON THE EDGE
Tomorrow, I plan to wake up and knock out another hundred pages of my book, Boondock Witch, so today–and perhaps for the last time for a short bit, I write here.
And today the subject will be a tenuous one: single women raising male children. Now, I suppose that most of what I’m about to say here can be applied to all women raising all boy children. As a Pagan author, I am inclined to tell the truth as close to the bone as possible: therein, it will be what I know, not what I reckon. So . . .
I was left on Sand Mountain, Alabama back in 1995 with a boy child in my belly, one boy four years of age and a daughter almost a decade old. With little money, no male in sight for guidance (geographically speaking) and a broken heart, we drained the waterbed for hydration and bundled together for warmth through the most horrific Christmas I have ever known. My son was stoic, frightened, and I fear somewhat scarred by witnessing his momma in such a weak and fragile position. My daughter finalized her view on men, how they leave, how they cannot be trusted, and only recovered (apparently) within the last year in the arms of a true man.
And I gave up on love for ten years.
What held it all together? Pancake Sunday. (Now, I can feel y’all, all tensed up reading this, afraid I’ll hit you with a sad end, an OMG revelation, or maybe a recipe. Cut it out. Breathe out. Let me tell you a story, now.)
That baby in my belly was a boy child. Not a soul on the planet, except for me, wanted him. I had weathered pleas and admonishments, threats (via his sperm donor) and logic on why it would be better for everyone if I just ended the pregnancy, pulled myself up by my bootstraps and never looked back. Those voices, believe it or not, were fueled by good intentions–after all, how was I to support that many mouths? Mother that many children? Father a son as a woman? And all I could hear was thump, thump, thump from somewhere in my core: I will be the child to change you. Let me live. We right nearly starved that winter, ended up in the projects on food stamps and welfare and my worn-down ass got pushed within a goat hair from ending my own life one morning around four a.m. And still: thump. Thump. Funny, ain’t it? The child no one saw life for refused to let his momma die. Tit for tat, it was. A life for a life, dystopically in reverse. I wrapped my heart around that little beat and held on like I was drowning . . . on account of, I was.
The day he was born, we both danced with death. He suffered Meconium Aspiration; I suffered massive blood loss. When they brought him to me, all ten pounds of him (Breyers Chocolate Mint Ice Cream, I will never forgive you), I refused to touch his pink skin. It hurts I told the nurse. Loving him. Birthing him. Not knowing if I could support him. It hurts. She pushed my hand aside and thumped his chubby ass onto my breast and said name him, damnit. And she left me there with this squirmy mass, looking up at me with blue eyes and fat fingers, for two hours while I cried for mercy, forgiveness and a sign. Now, I guess I’m pretty Southern about signs. Something wild and haunted runs through our veins down here, always squinting our eyes at dark corners for a sign of magic or wisdom like a cobweb in an unlikely chapel. But there it was: one brown speck, left eye, sparking like a copper penny.
When I was small, I cast for the love of my life–not unlike a scene in Practical Magic (which I still contend is written by a real witch). I asked for him to be magic, a friend of fairies and a good tree-climber. I named him Benjamin. And in an unlikely moment of adolescent desperation, in lieu of the beginning of what I saw as the Great Forgetting of all things magic, I added in an addendum: make a copper splotch in one eye so that I know him. And I asked for him to love pancakes, the kind that gets butter-crisp around the edges, soft in the middle and dotted with chocolate. Chocolate dotted, like his crystal eye, earth floating in water and air, fired in passion and love. Fast forward to a hospital bed, thirty-something years later: pain like I’ve never felt, sharp and hard down my spine. Alone like I’ve never been, no family in sight. The flicker of a hospital-grade lamp across one perfect, spherical copper orb in a crystal eye. Oh. Oh, dear god. You found me.
He was right on time. I’ve always felt that if someone saves you, you have no choice but to save them right back. The nurse came back in with a formal piece of paper and asked, Well? Name? My Pagan friends will forgive me, and perhaps understand, when I answered: Jacob. The only Biblical figure to have ever wrestled God.
I had no choice. In saving him, I saved me and my other children. Alone, I moved to Auburn, Alabama and fought my way into a major university with a 7th grade education. Today, I’m Dr. Seba–but I damn well know who made this possible. You can find him today, somewhere in downtown on a skateboard, just look for a copper speck in his left eye under a shaft of chestnut hair . . .
But wait–what do pancakes have to do with anything?
Alright. We were too poor to afford pre-fab food and my little Jacob was sick for most of his first two years. One morning, weighted down by a full class load and two full-time jobs, I decided to make something nourishing for my younguns from scratch. Now, if y’all have tried to create pancakes from scratch you also know the following: the first batch is crap, iron skillets (while divine for everything else) are not conducive to the process and forgetting the baking powder will leave your jacks flat. It took me two hours, some interesting new curse words (ever called a cake a bitchface?) and several cigarette breaks in the back forty to get it right. When it finally came together, all golden-sweet-slightly-salty-awesome, my baby boy fisted one in the air and hollered: Momma! Love-Bite! Circle, complete.
I guess, in the end, I didn’t promise him much. Just life and pancakes. But what he promised me, and has paid in spades, is so much more.
Jacob wrestled with God. And won. Guess “God” knew a miracle when he saw it.
Or, much more likely, She did.
Blessed be to all the mommas who struggle and win, for their own souls were worth the battle.
P.S. More to come.